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Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Top Movies of the Decade

First of all I must warn you that the following list is a list of opinions, and worse yet, they are my opinions. I am not much of a list-maker; I find them rather annoying in most cases, especially in the case of the other lists I have seen published on the best movies of the decade 2000-2010. These stupid lists of “great” movies are what prompted me to create my own top ten. I think that movie critics are about the lowest form of life—at least in the realm of writers. The critics for the major publications have their faces buried so deep in the asses of the big studios that they just aren’t worth reading for any reason. I’ll never forget when Anthony Lane for the New Yorker went on and on about what a fantastic movie Speed was. What a stupid cunt.

I especially hate it when critics tell me how I am supposed to feel about something, like Pete Travers for Rolling Stone saying about his list, “These are the 10 that deepened with time and dug their way into your head and heart.” Then he puts mostly shit on his list, at least in my opinion. The Departed doesn’t even rank in Scorcese’s top ten list let alone the top ten of the decade. You may feel differently but I thought that No Country for Old Men had nothing to say, the book and the film. I didn’t find it the least bit interesting. And There Will Be Blood at his number one spot? I couldn’t watch that movie twice on a bet, but that is just my opinion. Not one of my movies intersects with Traver’s list.

10) Munich (2005)
This is by far my favorite Spielberg movie which isn’t saying a lot. I read the book this was based on many years ago and I always thought that the story would make a terrific film. Believe it or not, the book didn’t have Spielberg’s depth of feeling about the nature of violence as a tool of politics.

9) Tapas (2005)
I had to include at least one Spanish film on this list and I add this one unapologetically. The simplest of small stories which give us a bird’s eye view of life in this Barrio of Barcelona. Why does Hollywood have such a difficult time making movies about the lives of people who actually have to work for a living? Hollywood’s idea of a normal job is an advertising executive. This movie was probably made on less than what it cost to make the trailer for The Lord of the Rings.

8) Gladiator (2000) Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
I wanted to have at least one blockbuster on my list just to prove that I’m not against the idea, it’s just that I hate shitty blockbusters. This made the list because it received a solid thumbs-up by dozens and dozens of bar patrons around my neighborhood this afternoon. I had to run a few errands around Ruzafa this afternoon and I noticed when I looked into a bar that Gladiator was playing on the television on the local channel Canal Nou. Not only was it on the TV but I noticed that all the patrons were watching it. I did what I had to do and then stopped in for a café con leche at my corner bar called Bar Canadá. I was just I time to see the final scene. There were about ten customers in the bar and everyone, including the bartender, was watching the movie intently. I’m sure we had all seen this movie at least three times but it is hard not to watch it whenever it is on the TV..

I was reminded of Master & Commander and had to quickly withdraw Gladiator, sorry. I couldn't possibly leave M&C off this list so I'll have to shoe-horn it in here. I love the Patrick O'Brian books and this was a remarkable adaptation of two of them.

7) High Fidelity (2000)
A great movie from a great book, one of the better novels from the 1990s. I even liked Jack Black in this movie but it was the first time I had seen him.

6) The Dark Knight (2008)
I think that what I like most about this movie is that they took a genre that I despise and that I think is mostly for booger-eaters and made a decent movie that isn’t too retarded. I guess this makes two blockbusters on my list—I’m practically in the mainstream. I hate critics who feel that they need to fill their list with hoary little indie films that no one has seen (and probably for good reasons).

5) The Lives of Others (2006)
It’s tough for me to really love a movie in a language that I don’t speak at all, and I have seen few German movies in my life, so this film really made an impression on me. A good man triumphs over the pettiness of the state. I saw this during the tail-end of the disastrous Bush era and one line at the end of the movie almost floored me with its relevance.

I watched this movie again after reading Anna Funder’s book, Stasiland, about life in East Germany under the paranoid psychopaths of the state security police. The film is a masterpiece of tragedy and hope and the triumph of good.

One of the most moving scenes in this and in any movie is when he discovers that his copy of Brecht is missing which, of course, has been nicked by his nemesis/deus ex machina in the Stasi. We cut to him reading it at home.  “Can anyone who has heard this music, I mean truly heard it, really be a bad person?”

From what I have read about the Stasi I doubt that anyone would have talked freely on a telephone line in this era but I could see how the writer, after years of keeping within the party lines, would think that his home was not under surveillance.

“To think that people like you once ruled a country.” I had the same thoughts during the Bush/Cheney years in America.

4) Michael Clayton (2007)
I just thought that the acting in this was brilliant. A legal thriller but this movie is so much more than that. What makes this so remarkable is how the director makes you put the pieces together while giving you just the minimum of information. The personal relationships are explained in the briefest fashion yet if you do the work you can cobble together an incredibly complicated story. Just think of the interaction between Michael Clayton and his two brothers in the film. Hardly anything is revealed yet there exists a rather profound depth to their relationships if you connect the dots. This is a movie that makes you pay attention and then rewards you for your effort.*
*This just in: Up in the Air is every bit as brilliant as Michael Clayton. One of the more quotable movies that I may have ever seen.

3) The Pianist (2002)
This movie was brilliant on so many levels, an epic film about the horrors of Nazi Europe with a good portion of it from the perspective of a guy peeking out of a window in an apartment where he is hiding. I thought it was much better than Schindler’s List.

2) The Hurt Locker (2009)
A really stupid title for a really great movie. I have no idea what the title means and if this movie did poorly at the box office I would place the blame on the label. This movie was about a U.S. Army bomb squad in Iraq. As a child I remember watching the news about Viet Nam and seeing lots of helicopters. That war seemed to be defined for me by helicopters. The war in Iraq has been about IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. The film only delicately addresses what a piece of shit the war is and instead it focuses on the dedicated soldiers we send to do our dirty work. The director really got the whole military scene. Everyone looked and talked like soldiers. There wasn’t a single cliché in this movie (except one time when a soldier screamed, “Fire in the hole!” but I can forgive that). There wasn’t any “Do we cut the blue wire or the red wire” bullshit that you see in every movie about bombs. There wasn’t some Al Qaeda mastermind pitting his wits against the good guys. It was just a movie about men doing their jobs in a hellish situation. At one point one of the soldiers admits, “I fucking hate this place.”

1) The Wire (2002)
Yes, I know this wasn’t a movie. What it should have been was a wake-up call to the movie industry to get their shit together and start making better feature movies. The days when TV takes a back seat to films are over. I can’t remember a movie this decade that I looked forward to seeing with as much relish as I looked forward to seeing every new episode of this fantastic series. I could say the same for other series like Generation Kill, Entourage, Dexter, and The Shield, to name just a few.

Forget about James Cameron and his big budget, 3D science fiction extravaganzas (although I’m not really knocking Avatar, I’d love to see it), The Wire was much more groundbreaking and innovative. It is as close as cinema has come to duplicating the power of a novel.